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Contrasting mechanisms of penile urethral formation in mouse and human


This paper addresses the developmental mechanisms of formation of the mouse and human penile urethra and the possibility that two disparate mechanisms are at play. It has been suggested that the entire penile urethra of the mouse forms via direct canalization of the endodermal urethral plate. While this mechanism surely accounts for development of the proximal portion of the mouse penile urethra, we suggest that the distal portion of the mouse penile urethra forms via a series of epithelial fusion events. Through review of the recent literature in combination with new data, it is unlikely that the entire mouse urethra is formed from the endodermal urethral plate due in part to the fact that from E14 onward the urethral plate is not present in the distal aspect of the genital tubercle. Formation of the distal portion of the mouse urethra receives substantial contribution from the preputial swellings that form the preputial-urethral groove and subsequently the preputial-urethral canal, the later of which is subdivided by a fusion event to form the distal portion of the mouse penile urethra. Examination of human penile development also reveals comparable dual morphogenetic mechanisms. However, in the case of human, direct canalization of the urethral plate occurs in the glans, while fusion events are involved in formation of the urethra within the penile shaft, a pattern exactly opposite to that of the mouse. The highest incidence of hypospadias in humans occurs at the junction of these two different developmental mechanisms. The relevance of the mouse as a model of human hypospadias is discussed.

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